Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Planes, Cruise Ships, and Germs

Boost your chances of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps.

Flu Season Coming continued...

Also, the air within planes is usually very dry, with 10%-20% humidity, according to the CDC. When your mucous membranes dry out as a result, you're more susceptible to infection.

So what can you do to stay one step ahead of cold and flu germs while flying? Experts offered these tips.

1. Wash hands frequently. To cut down on viruses that hitch a ride on your hands, "frequent hand washing or using hand gels is very important," Schaffner says. An alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer that contains 62% ethanol does the best job at killing germs. After you wash with soap and warm water, you can use some gel to get your hands even cleaner. Avoid hand contact with your face.

2. Stay hydrated. "Keep up your fluids," Schaffner says. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, because both can cause dehydration. If you want to indulge in an alcoholic drink or a cup of java, make sure you drink plenty of water before and during the flight. You can also keep your eyes and nasal passages moist with saline eye drops and saline nasal spray.

3. Ask a flight attendant for new seating if a passenger nearby is coughing, sneezing or appears ill. "Proximity matters," says Schaffner, who once developed a cold within a couple of days after sitting by a sneezing, sniffling plane passenger. "Being very close to the source -- in the same row or two seats in front or back -- those are the folks who are at greatest risk," he says. "After that, the risk tails off very remarkably."

The reason? Large aircraft are designed so that air doesn't blow from the front to the rear of the cabin, but instead, air circulates "segmentally," from ceiling to floor. "You're really in your own kind of air zone, with about two rows in front and two in back," Schaffner says.

The longer you're seated near an ill passenger, the greater your risk of exposure, Schaffner adds. "The longer you're together, the more apt you are to talk with each other, perhaps even touch the same things, and the longer you share the same airspace."

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat